Home Service Sunday 24th December 2023

What Does It Take to Celebrate?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

Some years ago, a Christmas musical included Mary saying, “If the Lord has spoken, I must do as he commands. I will put my life into his hands. I will trust him with my life.”

That was Mary’s response to the surprise announcement that she would be the mother of the Son of God. Whatever the consequences, she was able to say, “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Mary was ready to surrender her life to the Lord, even if it meant that she might be disgraced in the eyes of everyone who knew her. And because she trusted the Lord with her life, she became the mother of Jesus and could celebrate the coming of the Saviour. Mary took God at his word, accepted God’s will for her life, and placed herself in God’s hands.

That’s what it takes to truly celebrate Christmas: to believe what is completely unbelievable to many people, to accept God’s will for our lives, and to place ourselves in God’s service, trusting that our lives are in his hands. Only then will we be able to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

Lord, our God, please give us faith to believe that the child we celebrate on Christmas is your Son, our Saviour. Help us to acknowledge him as Lord and to trust him with our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

God’s pondering servant

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19)

Mary had her share of struggles. Her wedding plans were made, and she looked forward to living a normal life with her husband in Nazareth. Then one day God stepped into her life and told her she would be the mother of the Saviour, the Son of God. Mary responded in faith, “I am the Lord’s servant. . . . May your word to me be fulfilled.” She was all in, no matter where God’s adventure would take her.

Mary’s journey took her with Joseph to Bethlehem. She gave birth there and placed her firstborn son in a manger. In obedience to God, they named him Jesus, because he would be the Saviour of the world. A group of local shepherds showed up without an invitation, babbling about a bright light in the night and a choir of angels, and then they rushed off with shouts of praise. Wow! Mary reflected on these things, struggling to put them together.

Mary kept on pondering: they received a visit from “wise men” from the East and escaped a massacre by the local king (Matthew 2), and later she watched her son die on a cross. Because Mary responded in faith, the Bible calls her blessed, for she believed what the Lord had said (Luke 1:45).

It’s Christmas Eve tonight. Are you willing to take God at his word, no matter your circumstances, and believe in Jesus as your Saviour? God’s love, displayed for all the world in Jesus, will never let you go.

Father God, increase our faith daily. We know you love us. Guide us to serve and honor you wherever you call us to go. Amen.

Promised Hope

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)

Tomorrow is Christmas, the day when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. The prophet Isaiah tells us why the birth of Jesus is such great news for the world. This good news comes to people who were “walking in darkness.” But now those same people “have seen a great light.”

In the prophecy of Isaiah, darkness and light are used to represent sin and salvation. Without Christ, we are lost in the darkness of sin. But because of the birth of Jesus, we have hope in God’s light, his victory over sin and death. God promises us salvation in Jesus.

In our world and in our lives, it can sometimes feel as though the darkness is overwhelming. It can seem as though sadness and sin have the upper hand, while the light of goodness and joy are hidden in shadow.

But God’s Word promises us that light is coming to the world in Jesus. Isaiah promises a Savior who will rule the world. “He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” His reign will bring peace and joy to the world. “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.”

Jesus rules the whole world, and his rule is one of peace. That news is light for a darkened world.
God of promise, we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus tomorrow. We thank you for the light of hope you have given us in him. In his holy name we pray. Amen.

Last Minute

“People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came. . . .” (Luke 17:27)

Today shops will be filled with people looking to buy something—anything—for some of their closest family members. If asked why they waited till Christmas Eve, some will claim they enjoy the rush that comes with last-minute shopping. Others will offer different reasons, but many will just say they have been too busy. Doing other things, they have had no time to shop, and now it is Christmas Eve.

Jesus warns us that people will be busy on the day of his coming. People will be busy in the way they were in the days of Noah and Lot. When Jesus says this, he does not say that people in those days were busy being wicked. Jesus says that people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, buying and selling, planting and building. They were going about their daily lives and were busy doing everyday sorts of things.

We often keep ourselves busy in similar ways even when we know a special deadline is approaching. We know that Christmas is coming, but we still leave some of our preparations to the last minute because we are “so busy.”

On this Christmas Eve, may we set aside our busyness and simply enjoy the gifts God has given us. May we be ready to rest in God’s goodness as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Gracious God, the day is almost upon us. Forgive us for leaving some things undone. Help us to rest in your grace and to receive the joy of your salvation revealed in Jesus. Amen.

‘Silent Night! Holy Night’
“Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
“Silent Night! Holy Night” is a well-known Christmas hymn. It was written by parish priest Joseph Mohr when the organ at the small church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria, broke down. Mohr wrote this song to be accompanied by guitar on December 24, 1818.
“Silent Night” tells the story of the birth of Jesus the Messiah from Luke 2.
In the closing lines of three stanzas in this song, we hear important titles that are assigned to Jesus at his birth. He is the “Saviour,” “Christ (Messiah),” and “Lord.” All of these titles are mentioned by the angel of the Lord in Luke 2:11.

Appearing to shepherds at night in a bright burst of glory, the angel announces the birth of the Saviour in the nearby town of David (Bethlehem), saying, “He is the Messiah [Christ], the Lord.”
This is the greatest birth announcement ever. The baby born in Bethlehem has signifi­cance for the whole world. He is the Saviour, the one who saves us from our sins. He is the Messiah, the “anointed one” promised through the prophets. And he is the Lord. God sent his Son, who is himself fully God, to become human and live among us.

“Christ the Saviour is born!”

Dear Jesus, we glorify and praise your name because you, O God, came to save us, to be our Lord as God’s anointed. Thank you for coming to us, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

To be continued 7/1/24…. Have a happy and holy Christmas – God Blesses us all. Jim

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